Guest blog post: A bike for all seasons

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Gail Rehbein from abike4allseasons on her bike
Gail Rehbein from abike4allseasons

Could you imagine cycling everywhere you could for a year?  That’s right, a whole year?  Well, that’s a challenge that friend and talented writer Gail from abike4allseasons did.  And she is STILL on her bike.

Wow, what a year 2018 is shaping up to be!  I’m back at work, crazy busy in an exciting new role, and then on top of that, this blog has been picked up in the media.  It seems that nearly every day someone tells me they have seen me in the paper.  It feels lovely, actually, to be out and proud as a frugalitsa. I worried that people might think I was uncool or scroogey, but surprisingly to me, please get it.  Yes, people are finally getting the frugalista vision, including my workmates, who actually ask me now about frugal recipes, how to save and how to invest.

No, the superstar status has not at all gone to my head (I don’t think family and friends would let me), but functionally this has all made my life a lot busier.  Which is why I didn’t end up pumping out nearly as many blog posts about transport in February as I had planned to. For this reason, and because it is such an important topic, I have decided to extend the transport challenge out until March.  Are there any topics you would like to see covered? If so, please leave a comment to let me know.

Today’s post is an exciting one – a guest blog post by Gail from abike4allseasons.  I met Gail in 2015 when she travelled from the Gold Coast to Canberra where we both participated in the rather amazing Hardcopy development course for nonfiction writers.  Several participants from that course have gone on to become published writers – some bestselling authors and others award-winning authors.  Pretty cool alumni:)  And Gail is pretty cool as well.

What struck me about Gail was that she was super keen to cycle every.  Cycle!  Even in cold Canberra weather! And even though she had flown down from Canberra, she made sure her itinerary included bike plans.  Once I got to know her more, I found out about her amazing challenge of cycling whenever she could.  I love how she has made cycling a part of her life.  And on a personal level, what she is doing inspired me to sell up my home in the burbs and move to a cycle-friendly neighbourhood. So it was an honour to ask her more about her cycle lifestyle.

Have you always liked to cycle? 

Riding a bicycle has always been something I enjoyed but I think I took it for granted. My earliest memories of cycling are riding a bike as a child along narrow roads lined with sugar cane fields in Queensland. As a child, my bike was my transport to school and to visit kids on neighbouring farms. Somewhere in my twenties, driving a car took over. I still owned a bike but rode only occasionally. Driving a car was a rite of passage to being an adult. Now, I’m glad to be freewheeling again.

Are you one of those super fit triathlete types?

In a word, no. Competitive sport and extreme training programs are not my cup of tea. Leisurely rides and using my bike for transport are.

Tell me about your year-long cycling challenge.  Why did you decide to do it?

In December 2014, I decided to ride my bicycle as much as possible in everyday life. It would be an experiment to cycle through the four seasons, trading my car for my bicycle wherever I could. I wanted to get fit. And I wanted to save money because a few months earlier, my regular contracts had come to an unexpected halt.

Was it hard?

Making significant personal changes in your life is rarely without difficulty. Launching into the unknown is exciting but it also awakens fears. I worried about not being able to make the changes that I wanted to make. Failing. And publicly too because I was writing a blog about it. Although there were some times during the year when I questioned whether I wanted to continue, I’m glad I didn’t give up because the experiment brought changes to my lifestyle that continue to be rewarding. I think it would have been harder if I decided not to use the car at all. However, I always wanted the experiment to create change that would last rather than become something extreme that wasn’t sustainable.

Was there anything unexpected about it?

There were times when I just had to admit, I couldn’t realistically use my bicycle. Travelling nine kilometres to a wedding on a rainy day by bicycle just wasn’t going to happen.

How did you manage weather? How did you manage tropical Queensland storms?

Managing the weather is firstly about having the right kit like a good raincoat and waterproof panniers. Secondly, it’s about being willing to adapt to changes in the weather. Heat, cold, wind direction, rain and sunshine are variables that take on new meaning and impact when I’m riding a bicycle. That impact might mean a change in what I wear or when I travel or how much energy I need to expend. In the case of a tropical storm, that can mean not riding at all or taking shelter until the storm passes over. I find the weather is quite manageable if I work with it and not against it.

How did you manage interstate or overseas travel?

If travelling by car, then I’ll take my bike with me. If flying to a destination, then my trip research will always include how I can access a bicycle where I’m visiting. Bicycle shops are a good option for hiring bicycles and a growing number of hotels now offer bicycle hire too. Many cities have bike-share schemes which can be accessed for a small tariff (although each scheme varies).

How much money do you estimate you saved?

I don’t have exact numbers but pre-experiment I’d fill my car with fuel about once a week. That has dropped to once a month. During my year-long experiment, I pedalled 3777 kilometres with at least half of those kilometres being journeys I would have previously made by car. This means I saved money by not buying fuel to travel 1900 kilometres because I rode my bicycle instead of driving the car. There are also savings from journeys that I previously drove without even thinking but, as a result of the experiment, chose not to do at all (like jumping in the car to drive to the gelato shop every now and then).

What advice do you have for anyone who is thinking of using their bike for commuting?

Arriving at work by bicycle is a good feeling. You will have exercised, energised your body and mind, and saved money on fuel, maintenance costs on your vehicle or public transport fares. You can also forget about needing a gym membership because while you’re riding, no matter how short the journey, you’re getting incidental exercise.

If it’s awhile since you rode a bike or you’re new to bike-riding, then joining a social riding group can be a good stepping stone to building skills and confidence. Ride a couple of days a week and then build up to more. Ease yourself into riding your bicycle so the changes you’re making to your lifestyle have the best chance of becoming normal. That’s what has happened for me and they’re changes that continue to keep me fit, happy and saving money.

Thank you, Gail, for sharing your insights on Ms Frugal Ears.  Dear readers, are you inspired now to take up cycling?

5 comments

    1. I enjoy winter cycling too. If I’m feeling cold, then riding my bike gets my blood circulating and warms me up from the inside. The cool air is invigorating too. In summer though, I have to be more strategic with timing my rides. Living in a warm tropical climate, I aim to ride early morning or late afternoon. That works well for work commutes as well as for doing errands.

      1. Gail and Evangeline, I enjoy winter cycling a lot. I actually started cycling in late autumn last year. Minus five – no problems. Well, it was a bit of a problem getting up of a morning but once I was on the bike it was much better. Summer is much harder. I overdid it cycling to and from the hospital to visit Neil in early January. It was fine going there, but I got overheated coming back and had a bad headache for a while. I mustn’t have drunk enough water. It did go, but it taught me not to overdo things.

  1. Hi there, I cycle every day in Perth where we have hot summers. The key to summer cycling is wet clothing. When my partner first introduced me to this idea I thought it was gross but since I tried it I have never looked back. It lasts for up to an hour which is sufficient for most peoples commutes. You basically turn the garden hose on yourself before riding off. The kids are a little tricky to get used to it so options are putting on heated wet clothing e.g. wet from the hot tap or from the sun warmed garden hose. Or use a spray bottle. I take a spray bottle with us on our trips to gently wet down the kids or myself. I learnt the spray bottle and fan trick from living in Queensland with no air-conditioning. Works really well. We use it camping in summer (the spray bottle on your exposed body or the sheets). Other night cooling options rather than using the aircon is the ice pack wrapped in a tea towel or pillow case. Like a hot water bottle in reverse. Great on the feet. We never use the aircon at night and the temps are sometimes 30 degrees.
    For riding though, my partner uses heavy cotton slow drying clothes (long sleeves, long trousers). I use a heavy cotton singlet or t shirt under a cotton mens shirt to keep the wet next to my body. But I wet everything when I set off. The over shirt I think slows down the drying of the singlet and keeps you cool longer. The wet bra lasts the longest. We also use these special legionnaires cycling caps from the cancer council and thoroughly wet them. They Velcro under your chin and it’s honestly like personal evaporative air conditioning. On long trips all you need is a drink fountain or toilet tap to re wet clothing and away you go. My partner rides with a friend who persists with his quick dry lycra and he is clearly uncomfortable on hot days. We hardly sweat at all as the wet clothes do the cooling for us. I have ridden in 40 degrees no problem. Its weird though because the streets are deserted. Everyone is hiding in their houses or stuck by the pool. We are the only weirdos braving the conditions because we have a secret. It is a good idea to suss out where the water is. For example we have a network of cycle paths and a 17 km circuit we often do. There are water sources every 5km and to be really comfortable riding with kids (i.e. slow pace) you wet yourself thoroughly again at each 5km mark. Just need some forward planning.

    1. Oh, I like this idea. I can totally imagine what it must be like – almost apocalyptic – cycling in 40 degrees heat while everyone is caving inside with the air con running. You go!

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